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We have generated transgenic Cantaloupe Charentais melons expressing an ACC oxidase antisense gene in which ethylene production was reduced to less than 1% as compared to control untransformed fruits. As a consequence, some aspects of the ripening process were strongly inhibited (aroma volatiles production, chlorophyll and cell wall degradation, pigmentation of the rind, activation of peduncular abscission zone) while others remained unchanged (coloration of the flesh), allowing us to distinguish between ethylene-dependent and ethylene-independent pathways. Some postharvest characteristics of the transgenic fruit are described in terms of expression of ripening-related genes, respiratory behavior, and biochemical composition. Data also are presented showing that exogenous ethylene treatments could reverse the antisense phenotype.

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Abstract

U. F. breeding lines G 508, G509, G510, G511 and G515 are short internode muskmelons (cantaloupes) Cucumis melo L. that are being released as germplasm for breeding purposes (Fig. 1). The recessive dwarf character from a short internode line (MCa 66-18-14) obtained from J. L. Bowers, Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, was introduced into disease-resistant Florida breeding lines and several commercial cultivars.

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Trenched beds covered with plastic mulch was used to capture and retain precipitation for dryland cantaloupe production. Two trenches were formed in the fall in raised beds. Plastic mulch was laid over the beds and slitted at ca. 1 meter intervals over the trenches. Soil was placed over the slits, conforming the plastic to the shape of the trenches and channeling precipitation into the beds. Cantaloupes were seeded in the spring and grown with no supplemental irrigation. Planting moisture was significantly greater under the capture system than in unmulched beds. Seedling emergence time was reduced from 18 to 6 days and vine growth in the first 6 weeks was almost doubled. Total and marketable yields were doubled and fruit size significantly increased when water was limiting. Elevated soil temperatures under the mulch enhanced plant growth and yield even when moisture was not limiting. Combining a moisture capture system with supplemental irrigation could allow commercial production of cucurbit crops under limited water conditions in semi-arid areas.

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Refrigerated fresh-cut fruit and vegetables are the most rapidly expanding area in produce sales. Shelf life for minimally processed produce depends on natural product senescence or spoilage organism decay. Shelf life limits, near-aseptic cutting facilities, refrigerated transportation, and refrigerated storage make it possible to ship precut cantaloupe coast to coast on a year-round basis. Thorough cantaloupe surface disinfection reduces potential spoilage organisms and harmful pathogens. We compared using vapor hydrogen peroxide and sulfur dioxide to the current practice of hypochlorite (HOCL) washing to reduce cantaloupe microbial load. After treatment, cantaloupe were stored in unsealed polyethylene bags at 2.2°C for 4 weeks. The HOCL treated fruit were scrubbed and soaked for 5 minutes in a commercial HOCL solution. After 4 weeks, the HOCL washed fruit had reduced visible molds compared to controls. Cantaloupes fumigated for 60 minutes with 5000 or 10,000 ppm sulfur dioxide developed sunken lesions but no significant decay after 4 weeks storage. Cantaloupes, treated 60 minutes with 3 mg·L–1 volume vapor hydrogen peroxide, did not show injury or significant decay after 4 weeks storage. Sulfur dioxide and vapor hydrogen peroxide show promise as alternatives to HOCL.

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The response of different doses of calcium sulfate or phosphogypsum (PG) on several postharvest quality parameters of `Laguna' cantaloupe hybrid were analyzed in the semi-arid San Francisco experiment station (UCLA), located in the Lara state, Venezuela. The experimental design was a completely randomized block with four treatments (0, 300, 600, and 1200 kg/ha, PG) with five replications. The PG was surface-spread on the irrigation furrows, 1 day before sowing. The fruits were harvested at maturity and stored under an average temperature of 28°C for posterior quality analysis. The PG treatments did not have any effect on the studied parameters: total soluble solids (°Brix), consistency (kg/cm2), diameter, and cavity of the fruit, pulp thickness, and dry and fresh matter. All of the parameters evaluated decreased during the 6 days of storage. These results could be because of the low doses of PG used or because the supply of calcium was not a limitation in these soils.

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Transgenic Cantaloupe Charentais melons (Cucumis melo var. cantalupensis Naud. `Védrantais') exhibiting strong inhibition of ethylene production were used as a model to discriminate between ethylene-regulated and ethylene-independent ripening pathways. Compared to wild-type fruit, transgenic fruit did not undergo significant yellowing of the rind and softening of the flesh. However, these effects were completely reversed by treating transgenic fruit with 50 μL·L-1 exogenous ethylene. Pigmentation of the flesh occurred early before the onset of the climacteric and was thus unaffected by ethylene inhibition in transgenic fruit. Total soluble solids accumulated at the same rate in both types of fruit until 38 days after pollination when wild-type fruit abscissed. However, as ethylene-inhibited fruit failed to develop a peduncular abscission zone, they remained attached to the plant and accumulated higher amounts of sugars, mainly sucrose. Harvesting transgenic fruit resulted in a small but significant increase of internal ethylene associated with softening of the flesh.

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The objective of this study was to determine the effects of 1-MCP preharvest spray application on harvest synchrony, maturity, fruit quality, and marketable yield of cantaloupe. Seeds were planted in a commercial field on 16 Mar. (early planting, cv. Caravelle) and 4 Apr. (late planting, cv. Mission) 2005. Standard plant population, fertilization, irrigation, and pest control practices were followed. We evaluated three 1-MCP rates (5, 10, or 25 g·ha-1 a.i.) at three preharvest spraying times for the early (22, 15, and 7 days before harvest, DBH) or once for the late planting experiment (4 DBH). An additional test (late planting) compared fruit quality after storage for melons dipped with 1-MCP (0 or 10 mg·L-1). Fruits were harvested six times during June 2005 (early planting) and once on 19 July 2005 (late planting) and fruit quality parameters were measured at harvest and after storage. The preharvest 1-MCP application slightly delayed maturity and improved early harvest synchrony, but did not affect total marketable or yield by fruit size regardless of timing or rate of application. There was no effect of 1-MCP rate or application timing on fruit quality at harvest or after cold storage, except for an increased in fruit firmness (10%) in one of the six harvests. However, fruits treated with 1-MCP spray at 25 g·ha-1 a.i. (late planting) had higher firmness than those treated with lower rates after 9 days of storage. In addition, 1-MCP postharvest dipping significantly improved fruit firmness; however, a `greening' was evident in the fruit surface. Our results suggest that cantaloupe fruit quality was less affected by early preharvest spray application of 1-MCP applied at less than 25 g·ha-1 a.i. as compared to postharvest applications.

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New fresh-cut melon products prepared from orange-fleshed honeydews have recently become available in retail markets. We compared fresh-cut chunks of orange-fleshed honeydew (`Temptation' and four breeding lines), green-fleshed honeydew (`Honey Brew'), and cantaloupe (`Cruiser'). All genotypes had similar respiration and ethylene production rates and soluble solids contents: genotype means for soluble solids contents were between 9.4% and 10.1 %. Five hundred untrained consumers preferred the flavor, texture, and overall eating quality of the orange honeydews to the green cultivar, with `Temptation' scoring highest. `Temptation' chunks were less firm at the time of processing and after 12 days storage than chunks prepared from all other genotypes. The color of orange-fleshed honeydew chunks was intermediate between that of cantaloupe and green-fleshed honeydew and the color was maintained during 12 days storage. Total aromatic volatiles from juice extracts of orange-fleshed honeydew chunks was 1.2 to 4.7 times higher than that of green-fleshed honeydew extracts and volatiles from cantaloupe was >4.8 fold greater than extracts from `Temptation' and >9.3 fold higher than that of other honeydew extracts. Many individual volatiles were identical in cantaloupe and honeydews; however, honeydew genotypes, particularly the orange-pigmented types, were distinctive from cantaloupe in having relatively high levels of various nonenyl and nonadienyl acetates of uncharacterized aromas. The results indicate that `Temptation' and other orange-fleshed honeydews are a promising new melon type for fresh-cut processing.

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A field study was conducted in south Texas in the spring 1990 to determine the effects of ground cover, planting method and drip irrigation rates on cantaloupe growth, yield and quality. Transplanting vs. direct seeding enhanced early vine growth with earlier yields, although direct seeding later caught up resulting in comparable final cumulative yields. Black polyethylene mulch also improved earliness but at the loser irrigation rate total yields were reduced due to deflection of rainfall by the mulch. Irrigation at .1, .3, .5, .7 and .9 times pan evaporation had little effect on final cumulative yields with exception to the .1 and .3 rates. Melon sugar content was highest for transplants with direct seeded melons becoming comparable only at mid to final harvest. The combined practices of transplanting and black polyethylene mulch resulted in a 14 day earliness advantage over the treatments that were direct seeded on bare soil although final yields were unaffected. No appreciable increase in soil salinity were found as a result of drip irrigation usage.

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Chilling injury of cantaloupe melons (Cucumismelo, Cantalupensis group), although variable among cultivars, precludes the use of temperatures close to 0 °C for long term storage or transport. Diseases, either associated with chilling or independent from it, are usually the main factor terminating postharvest life of these melons. `Colima', a Western Shipper cultivar highly sensitive to chilling, was used to evaluate chilling and disease response to the following treatments: immersion in water at 60 °C for 1 minute (with or without 150 ppm chlorine), individual packaging (PVC, whole or perforated), exposure to air at 38 °C for 12 hours (with or without individual packaging), and control. After storage for 18 days at 0 °C and a simulated retail period of 3 days at 20 °C, there were significant differences among treatments: chilling was alleviated in heat-treated and especially in plastic-wrapped fruit, and the presence of diseases caused by pathogens such as Alternaria, Cladosporium, Fusarium, and Rhizopus was markedly reduced by heat treatments. Overall, visual quality was high and superior in fruit immersed in water at 60 °C with 150 ppm chlorine due to almost complete supression of diseases. Project financed by FONDECYT 1020882.

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